Mike Vickers' Blog

December 14, 2016

Aleppo – an abject failure of the West

Filed under: History in the making, Left Politics, Politics, USA, War — derryvickers @ 2:23 pm

It would have been quite possible to provide food and medicine to Aleppo using gps guided-parachutes. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/08/push-for-east-aleppo-aid-drops-using-gps-guided-parachutes

Even on Saturday Corbyn stood stony faced and silent why Peter Tarchell demonstrated for air drops. One expects such response from the Tories but not from Labour.

https://leftfootforward.org/2016/12/peter-tatchell-aleppo-is-todays-guernica-where-is-labour/

But I can remember the Berlin Air lift, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berlin_Blockade, and I note a comment in Wiki as to why the Soviets did not interfere: ‘ The Soviets did not disrupt the airlift for fear this might lead to open conflict’. It is likely to have been the case with Aleppo,

Of course it was far too late on Saturday but this is likely to be a further nail in Labour’s coffin.  It could certainly be the most serious indictment of Obama’s term of Office.

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November 13, 2016

Trump as Machiavelli’s Prince

Filed under: A Point of View BBC Radio4, Europe, History in the making, Politics, USA, War — derryvickers @ 1:00 pm

From an article by Martin Kettle in Friday’s Guardian:

He is an anti-liberal president for post-liberal times. He embodies extreme hostility to social liberalism – in the form, to take a few examples, of his contempt for ethnic minorities, his hatred for Muslims, his indifference to due process, his dismissal of rights, his willingness to use torture, his mocking of the disabled, his dismissal of political correctness, and above all, perhaps, his attitude to women. He is not alone in these attitudes in his party. Indeed, in some respects, Trump is the culmination of the deep-rooted hatred for social liberalism,’

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/nov/10/donald-trump-voters-liberal-order

Yes of course, Kettle is talking about Trump but could Kettle be equally talking about the Leader of ISIS.  I first thought, Yes; but on second thoughts No.
The Leader of ISIS, I would suspect, believes he is right: the West has polluted the world and its effects must be eradicated. 

Trump has no such high ideals for the USA; other than his self-aggrandisement: in this respect he is Machiavelli’s Prince.

From Wiki

‘The descriptions within The Prince have the general theme of accepting that the aims of princes—such as glory and survival—can justify the use of immoral means to achieve those ends:….He who neglects what is done for what ought to be done, sooner effects his ruin than his preservation’

Trump is no fool; he worked out that by speaking as he did he would appeal to enough floating voters to become President. This he has achieved.

But like the Prince he needs to hold on and that means winning another term.   In recent times there have been only two One Term Presidents: Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush and Trump doesn’t want to be a third; after all he has been trying long enough to become President. What’s going to stop Trump doing another Term and already he has started to change his tone . Using the same obnoxious techniques won’t work a second time; he needs to do something different and he has already decided that he needs to tap into broader group of voters; he has chosen that he needs to embrace the centre. He cosies up to Obama– they had ‘in Trump’s words’ a great meeting, lasting over an hour while only a ¼ hour was planned (thought why Obama puts up with Trump longer than the minimal ¼ hour is unclear – perhaps in the hope that ObamaCare will survive). Trump’s new song is that ObamaCare may not be that bad after all and putting Hilary in prison is not now top priority. Washington will be ‘a great lot of folks’ now they ‘understand’ Trump; and NATO may just be worth spending on.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/nov/12/donald-trump-appears-to-soften-stance-on-range-of-pledges.

Of course Trump may do it ‘his way’ and fail miserably; but he’s probably astute enough to know at Presidential level you have to get more than 50% right and to achieve this level you do need a few right thinking people around you.

But at the next Presidential election there will be Elizabeth Warren to contend with; and the American women who voted for Trump may come to realise that then is the time to blow ‘the Glass Roof’.

PS I commend readers to listen to Roger Scruton on ‘A Point of View’

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b081tkmc#play

September 8, 2016

Putting the Camera aside in the Mediterranean

Filed under: Europe, In Our Time, Politics, Travel, War — derryvickers @ 8:46 am

How’s this for a business model? The smugglers of Libya cram as many people as possible aboard ramshackle dinghies and send them off across the Mediterranean. There’s virtually no chance that the boats will make the 300-mile journey to Europe; they will either sink, drowning all on board, or be intercepted by a rescue ship or naval vessel on patrol. But the outcome makes little difference to the smugglers, who are part of a more than $5 billion industry; either way, they get paid, and new passengers keep coming.

This is the very definition of a death-defying journey, which TIME correspondent Aryn Baker and photographer Lynsey Addario set out to tell for this issue and an ongoing multimedia project. Now that the refugee route from Turkey to Greece has all but closed down, more and more migrants are braving the far more dangerous Libya-to-Italy corridor. Aryn and Lynsey embedded with a rescue team from the medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières on the MV Aquarius. It took their 77-metre., steel-clad, multi-engine surveying vessel 36 hours to reach Sicily from Libya. “The thought that these tiny, 40-horsepower-engine [migrant] boats, loaded with one tank of fuel, could make it anywhere would be laughable but for the number of lives at stake,” Aryn says, and indeed the death toll on the route has risen sharply this year, to 2,726 people.

These refugees came not just from the nightmare war zones of Syria and Sudan but from all across Africa. As dangerous as the sea journey is, Lynsey observes, “This is the least harrowing of their months- and years-long journey to date. They have been tortured, bound, gang-raped, trafficked, humiliated, starved and thrust into the open seas, and we come upon them often as the first ally since they left home.” At one point after intercepting a sinking trawler, there were 551 people aboard the Aquarius; Aryn handed out emergency rations, while Lynsey deployed her rudimentary Arabic to help calm frightened passengers.

“After almost two decades of covering people at their most vulnerable, I am often asked when is the appropriate time to put my cameras down and intervene in any given situation,” Lynsey says. Normally, her response is that she is not a doctor, and her mission is to tell the story to the larger world. But as the rescuers scrambled to pull some 400 people from one sinking boat, babies, toddlers and children were thrust from the crowd, one after another, passed along a chain of rescue workers. “When I pulled my camera away from my face, I realized everyone’s hands were full but mine,” Lynsey says, “and there was a startled boy at my feet–no more than 3 years old. The boat was jostling to the left and right, the sea splashing around us, and I thought of my son. I instinctively picked up the boy, letting my cameras dangle at my side, and undoubtedly missed some of the most important images of the day. But the situation was tense and precarious, and I knew what I needed to do then and there.”

This was Lynsey’s fourth journey on a search-and-rescue boat. She knows already it won’t be her last.

Nancy Gibbs, EDITOR: TIME Magazine September 12, 2016

PS If this doesn’t bring tears to your eyes

July 4, 2016

The Land of Lost Content

Filed under: Education, Personal, Poetry, Sustainability, War — derryvickers @ 7:44 pm

 

As a child I lived in Congleton in East Cheshire

I was able to walk and cycle freely wherever I liked.  I and my friend would be out for hours and my parents never worried.

A favourite place was up to Mow Cop.

Mow Cop

The Folly of Lost Content

though I suspect the way up has changed a lot since then.

I fear that kids can’t do that anymore.  It’s a great pity (and nothing to do with the EU)

Why do I remember this now – its because a book has just been released on A E Housman.

Housman composed a slim book of poems ‘A Shropshire Lad’.

The book was reputed to be carried by solders on the Front in WW1 and I can understand why.

However Housman also wrote the verse:

The Land of Lost Content

Into my heart an air that kills
From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
What spires, what farms are those?

That is the land of lost content,
I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
And cannot come again.

A. E. Housman

Malvern Hills

Malvern Hills like Shropshire and the Long Mynd

 

 

April 4, 2016

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold

Filed under: Europe, History in the making, Ireland, Poetry, Politics, USA, War — derryvickers @ 9:45 pm

With all the comment on the Easter Rising of 1916 in Dublin I felt a need to listen to a CD I have of WB Yeats’ poems including Easter 1916. Three of the four verses finish with the line A terrible beauty is born’. I then listened to next poem ‘The Second Coming’ and came across that well know stanza

‘Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;     Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,     The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere,     The ceremony of innocence is drowned;     The best lack all conviction, while the worst     Are full of passionate intensity.’

Well the poem’s well known to me since a guy I worked with in my first job harangued me that Yeats was the best of poets.

Interestingly I understand that Yeats ordered his published poems very carefully and he juxtaposed these two poems.

And when I look 100 years on from the Easter Rising I see that the Second Coming may be here and now. Whether we think of the Middle East, the US with the Donald, or here in the UK with Jeremy Corbyn at one extreme and the Right Ring Tories at the other with their passion to leave the EU. I am old enough to remember WWII and the thought of the EU breaking up appals me.

I am horrified that the young don’t vote; they see their vote as making no difference to what goes on in their name.

 

February 28, 2016

Western Civilisation and why we need to remain part of it

Filed under: economics, Europe, History in the making, Music, Painting, Politics, War — derryvickers @ 9:01 pm

Cameron’s deal with Brussels despite Martin Kettle writing in the Guardian was ‘Much Ado about Nothing’

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/feb/05/david-cameron-eu-deal-brussels-media-reaction

Is the deal anyway legally binding – I don’t know – I’m not a constitutional lawyer. In any case like all laws they can be rescinded. I have no doubt that if the EU Referendum result is for Out then the new Tory incumbent of Number 10 would quickly rescind any such laws; indeed she would be commitment bound to Brexit.

By the real question is why are we in Europe anyway and the same question applies equally why is Scotland in the UK. Despite what one might think from the media, Scotland voted to join England to create the UK by the Act of Union; one could argue that some duress was brought to bear but nevertheless the Union was voted through, through the then Scottish Parliament. There is duress in most unions; but the UK joining Europe was not one of them. The UK applied three times to join the then EEC and succeeded on the third attempt under the Tory PM Edward Heath – no duress here.

Looking back to the end of WW2

‘The European Economic Community (EEC) was created against the backdrop of post World War II Europe, with the aim of never again allowing human rights atrocities such as those committed by Germany.  Three Communities were founded in the 1950s: the Coal and Steel Community, the Atomic Energy Community and the Economic Community, with their own law-making institutions and flag.’

One of the drivers to setting up the EEC was Churchill who was also an instigator of the European Court of Human Rights.

We cannot aim at anything less than the Union of Europe as a whole, and we look forward with confidence to the day when that Union will be achieved.’

OK Churchill was a somewhat left of centre Tory but a Tory no doubt.

And to me both the EU as successor to the EEC along with the European Court are rightful products of us as members of Western Civilisation.

Yes European Wars have been going on for 3 millennia, ever since Athens established the ground work for Western Civilisation, but since the EEC was set up there have, with the exception of the Bosnian wars, been no wars since – a real plus. I am not suggesting that should the UK Brexit we will automatically launch a war with our European neighbours; and I have little doubt that should another war take place in Europe we will go to the aid of one side. But why risk it.

An enduring memory, for me, was when lessons were stopped in my primary school days to listen to the war reporters provide on-line commentaries from the D Day landings. I prefer not to sit and listen to such reporting of this nature in my lifetime.

The EU if far from perfect; it does worry about setting up trivia rather than taking the high road; but whose fault is it that Brussels avoids the high road; certainly the UK objects to anything that smacks of central policy and direction. One of Cameron’s agreements,               that he considered key, was ’ever closer union’ is about trust and understanding, not political integration.

If ever there was a need for direction by the EU it is now with immigrants seeking asylum from the Middle East and Afghanistan, with a well structured fiscal policy rightly or wrongly based on the euro; a far better understand between Europe north and south and a mature and workable foreign policy not only with respect to Russia but with the Far East and with the US.  Why is the US pressing hard to keep the UK in Europe? It is hardly for financial reasons, for all its financial problem the US economy is far larger and stronger than the UK’s or for that matter Europe as a whole.

The UK boasts of its strong financial position with respect to Europe but ‘come the revolution’ that would evaporate; the UK has no fall back on manufacturing compared with the other states of Europe; Germany of course but France and Italy also. But it’s not the economy stupid it’s that the UK is integral to Europe, we play their music, act their plays and appreciate their art; and so does the US. The US is as bound to Europe is as the UK is; after all the US expelled its indigenous peoples and peopled it with Spanish, French, English and Scots. If the UK left Europe the US would lose its interlocutor with Europe and that’s why Obama seems so worried with a UK Out. The Marshall Plan wasn’t wholly altruistic.

Clearly the UK could exist outside the EU just as Scotland could exist outside the UK. The UK would continue to trade with the rest of the world but the UK is a minnow compared with the US and China and increasingly India. But that is not the point, for good or ill and I believe because that’s where I was brought up, for good, we are part of the Western World; a world which largely recognises and abides by Human Rights and whose governments generally act civilly towards its citizens, and I would be loathed to be outside its main stream culturally and morally.

PS I believe in local government, which is missing in Scotland, but I see no contradictions in local government being within the umbrella of a regional council which is within Scottish/ UK Government which in turn is within the umbrella of a Europeans Commission responsible to the European Parliament.

February 18, 2016

Understanding European Challenges – RSE 16 February 2016

Filed under: Europe, Politics, Scotland, War — derryvickers @ 8:57 pm

We attended a full day conference organised by the Royal Society of Edinburgh under the above title. I believe it is the first of a series of seminars on various aspects of UK independence from the EU.

The agenda of the conference is given in the Appendix including the speakers.

I give below my impressions of the various sessions and speakers. I have made no attempt to give details of each session – this would take too long and in any case I will have not accurately captured all the details. I understand that sessions were being recorded and these recordings will become available on the RSE website.

The key note speech was given by Brigid Laffan. She concentrated on, as she said them the unprecedented challenges now facing the EU: the North South divide, the UK’s renegotiation, the refugee problem splitting the east and west, the Cleavage in the Real Economy centred on the Euro and dealing with Russia. On the positive side there is the Single Market, Community values and common laws. She acknowledged that the EU is centralist and there remains a problem of ‘redistribution’.

Anand Menon provided a more ‘pragmatic view’, he dwelt particularly on the impact of the coming referendum on British Politics; Cameron and Corbyn. He worried about the general apathy of the young to all politics; the relationship between the EU Executive and the European Parliament but stressed that in his view the Euro member countries must keep the Euro.

Paul Gillespie had considered a number of case of the UK in, the UK out, and half in and half out, (shake it all about) and stressed the impact on Eire and Northern Ireland relations if the UK left the EU including border control – I felt somewhat OTT as this situation had existed pre Ireland in the EU.   You can find Paul’s book at http://www.iiea.com/publications/brexit-legally-effective-alternatives.

Joanne Hunt was more concerned about the Westminster v Welsh Assembly relations / reserved matters as they already exist – the much favoured expression of the Elephant in Room came up.

Andrew Scott was also concerned that the EU membership is a reserved matter so that there is no legal opportunity for Scotland to apply to join the EU while remaining in the UK should the UK leave.

John Fossum considered the various options in principle to a country outside the EU working with the EU. He specially concentrated on the EEA – European Economic Area of which Norway as a member of EFTA participates in the free market of the EU without being a member of it. In Fossum’s view Norway suffered from all the downsides of the EU but failed to be part of the decision / policy making of it. Fossum noted that there is strong disagreement between the ordinary people in Norway and the politic elite as to membership of the EU

Ewen Stewart of Global Britain provided a whole set of statistics to show that the UK still holds a prominent place in the world and is being dragged down by as he sees it the failing EU so the UK should break away. Osborne would be proud. A closer look of the stats will be useful when these are made available through the RSE website. A couple would show that the UK is being boosted financially by London (the largest financial city in the World) and through speaking English; 70% of Chinese Contracts are in English – thanks to the US. Stewart quotes TINA – there is no alternative – support for free market, free trade and capitalist globalisation.

To the Discussion and Summary – all speakers except Joanne Hunt and Andrew Scott.

While the individual sessions had been delivery in a quiet tone the speakers in the discussion became more animated. Just a very few points that I caught:

  • European Regulation is OTT
  • Brussels is bureaucratic – but the Menon pointed out that the figures do not show Brussels as profligate – just the opposite
  • The EU requires ‘one size fits all’ – oddly a comment made by Willie Rennie later in the day about the Scottish Government
  • Life in the EU is now existential
  • Our vocabulary is outdated eg Nationalism, Sovereignty
  • Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty on withdrawal from the EU
  • The voting on the UK referendum will be on the Constitution and on the Economics
  • Whether the UK stays in the EU is as much to do with the 27 other countries of Europe as it is to do with the One, the UK – a fact surfacing only today – Thursday 18 Feb 2016
  • Cameron’s position if the UK votes No. There are echoes here of the Repeal of the Corn Laws pushed through by Robert Peel ,a Tory PM, against the wishes of his Tory Party in 1846
  • London is English not European
  • The North South divide is not just a European problem, it exists in the UK too
  • Scotland has lost its control of fishing rights
  • There are 250,000 members of the EU in Scotland
  • A lady of Spain bemoaning that she could lose all her benefits of being in the UK if the UK goes independent even though she has been here for 43 years
  • Brigid Laffan reminding us that the forerunner of the EU was set up with the prime purpose of ensuring that the European Nations would never go to war almost themselves. This point, as far as I was concerned, had been omitted throughout the previous 6 hours.

My thoughts on the day

In general all the speakers other than Stewart were in favour of the UK remaining in the EU – although until the final discussion they hid their inclinations well.

I agree that we should remain in the EU, mainly to migrate the chances of another intra- European war.

Nevertheless the EU has serious problems that it must tackle: these include managing the refugees, sorting out the North South divide along with the Euro, supra national and national identities as stated by Laffan in her key note speech. But it does seem to me that the EU is falling between two stools: on the one stood is a loose confederation of sovereign nation states and the other is a federal Europe with an overall constitution rejected by the Lisbon Treaty. The former stool is the one that Cameron is aiming at; the other stool looks, at least till recently, preferred by Germany. There is unlikely to be peace in the EU countries until this dichotomy is resolved.

Appendix

16 February, 2016 Royal Society of Edinburgh

16 February 2016 – 9am to 3.30pm at the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Keynote speaker: Brigid Laffan MRIA, Director and Professor at the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies and Director of the Global Governance Programme, European University Institute (EUI), Florence. The European Union is facing unprecedented challenges, including the problems of the Euro, the refugee crisis, and turbulence in its neighbourhood. The conference will address these questions and the different possible futures for Europe. It will examine the issues in the relationship between the United Kingdom and Europe, and the way they are seen in the nations and regions. It will also look at the alternatives to EU membership should the UK decide in the coming referendum that it wishes to withdraw.

Organised in partnership with The Centre on Constitutional Change and the ESRC’s The UK in a Changing Europe.

09.00-09.10 – 09.00-09.10: Welcome – Dame Jocelyn Bell-Burnell, President, RSE 09.10-09.15: Introduction – Sir Muir Russell FRSE, Chairman 09.15-10.05: Challenges to Europe, Professor Brigid Laffan MRIA, European University Institute

10.05-10.50: Issues for UK, Professor Anand Menon, King’s College London, Director of The UK in a Changing Europe

11.15-12.30: Views from:

  •  Ireland – Dr Paul Gillespie, Irish Times and University College Dublin
  •  Wales – Dr Joanne Hunt, Cardiff University, ESRC Senior Fellow
  •  Scotland – Professor Andrew Scott, University of Edinburgh

12.30-13.30: Lunch 13.30-14.30: Alternatives to EU, Professor John Erik Fossum, University of Oslo and Ewen Stewart, Director, Global Britain

14.30- 15.30 Discussion and Summary

May 22, 2015

Dunkirk Anniversary

Filed under: Europe, Personal, War, World Class — derryvickers @ 9:36 am

As a kid at primary school in Congleton, Cheshire I well remember morning lessons being held up with a news broadcast on the radio giving live commentary from the D Day landing – June 1944.

However as I think over WW2 I have long held the belief that the two crucial events of WW2 are the Evacuation from Dunkirk and the battle for Stalingrad.  The first saved so many thousands troops to fight on and Stalingrad proved that Germany was far from being invincible, the real turning point of the war (Of course Napoleon suffered the same fate in 1812)

It is therefore with real pleasure that the 75th  anniversary of the Dunkirk evacuation is now being celebrated.  I only hope that the Allies will join with Russia to celebrate the 75th anniversary of battle for Stalingrad in August 2017.

DunkirkAnniversary

April 5, 2015

In the Absence of War =- A Play for Today

Filed under: History in the making, Left Politics, Politics, Scotland, War — derryvickers @ 8:01 am

David Hare’s almost documentary play on Labour’s failure to take over power from John Major in 1992 – ‘In the Absence of War’ – is showing across the Country. Last week it was at the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow.

The play is about a charismatic politician (Kinnock) who is in front in the Polls but fails at the last hurdle. Follows the party policy instead of his gut feel (cf Borgen).

I was enthralled but  I can’t say I was ‘entertained’ – too much nearer the present truth.

As Joyce McMillan sets out in her article in yesterday’s Scotsman

http://www.scotsman.com/news/joyce-mcmillan-labour-still-learning-from-1992-1-3737415

Some critics say there is comedy in the play.

To me the play is Shakespearean tragedy or possibly Sophocles.

‘Alas poor Yorick, I knew him well’

A fuller piece by David Hare himself

http://www.theguardian.com/stage/2015/jan/30/david-hare-labour-party-the-absence-of-war-play

Hare states:

‘It had long been evident that in any democratic society, whatever the current flux of ideology, there will always be two major parties, one protecting Money and the other representing Justice’.  We shall see whether still true in May!

 

To our local politics here in Scotland in the last paragraph of McMillan’s article re the SNP, she posits ‘and asking which of those huge, political-soul-destroying pressures it can resist, once it is drawn into the corrupt and charismatic world of serious Westminster politics’.

 

February 11, 2015

The Mailed Fist is no Answer to Putin’s Old Traditions – Ukraine

Filed under: Europe, History in the making, Politics, USA, War — derryvickers @ 12:04 pm
Negoiations

Merkel, Putin and Hollande

Merkel and Hollande have been to visit Putin on the Ukraine.

Merkel is a realist and reckons there is no quick answer but it should be by negotiation.

Picture: AP

I can do no better than to commend an article by Allan Massie in today’s Scotsman – 11 Feb 2015

http://www.scotsman.com/news/allan-massie-mailed-fist-is-no-answer-to-putin-1-3686263

As Massie points out the West is not blameless in this respect and I can only note that the UK was not invited to join the table.

And as Massie says we both have a common enemy.

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